The Next Big Version of Windows Could Land in Spring 2015

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On Thursday, Microsoft will release Windows 8.1, a free update for Windows 8 users. But what happens after that?

The well-connected Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet has some “trusted sources” who claim to know:

Right now — and this may change — the idea is to deliver a “major” release of “Windows” in the Spring of 2015. My aforementioned source says this major release will be a kind of hybrid that will bring the current Windows and Windows Phone OSes closer together. This is most likely when the rumored unified Windows and Windows Phone Store will debut.

Microsoft has been slowly tying together its phone, tablet and Xbox software, and once the Xbox One launches in November, they’ll all be powered by the same Windows kernel. But the app stores will remain separate, and there are still lots of feature disparities between Windows Phone and Windows 8. (For instance, Windows 8′s Snap mode for running multiple apps side-by-side is not available on Windows Phones.)

The other interesting tidbit from Foley’s report: As Microsoft merges its phone and tablet platforms, she says the company will probably build on top of Windows Phone, rather than subtracting features from Windows RT. Some pundits (and users) have argued that Microsoft should have done this from the beginning, while leaving the traditional Windows desktop alone.